Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cognitive Learning Tools

            Cognitive learning tools consist of methods to immerse the student in the subject. When Dr. Michael Orey surveyed his students on what was their most memorable course; the answers were their study abroad program and their student teaching program (Laureate Education, Inc. 2009e ), both of these programs immerse the student in the learning process.  The question teachers must ask themselves is how we immerse our students in our classrooms without the travel. Cognitive learning tools can help us with this mission.    Technologies offer many different tools that used, can immerse the students in their studies. There are search engines like Google, graphic organizers, concept maps, spreadsheets, power points, video conferences, virtual field trips and many more.
As teachers, we can learn how to teach our students to use these many different technologies to help immerse them in your subject matter. As an example, I was teaching a lesson on the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. As part of the unit, I set up a video conference with a representative of the Israeli government. My students were able to get a full lesson on the history and current events in Israel. The students learned a little Hebrew and given a tour through video and photos of Israel. The students were shocked that so many Arabs still live in Israel, they were surprised to learn that almost all Israeli citizens are required to serve a minimum of two years in the military, and they were stunned to see Israel come to a stand-still during Memorial Day. Our Israeli host was born and raised in North Jersey, he understood that the South Jersey kids hit the beaches on Memorial Day; therefore, he explained why the day is so solemn in Israel. My students still talk what they learned from this conference. Using video conferences or video field trips can help a teacher make the subject come alive for their students and expand the students understanding of the topic (Laureate Education, Inc. 2009e.).
In addition to virtual field experiences, the students can also reinforce ideas from lecture into a concept map, sometimes called mind mapping (Laureate Education, Inc. 2009e.). The teacher sets up a leading question or a topic with sub-topics the students need to fill in to reinforce the materials. In my classroom, I had three students help build a mind map on Napoleon III. I set the map up with a photo of the Emperor Napoleon III and then set up the sub-topics of foreign policy, domestic policy, nationalism, unification of Germany, unification of Italy. From these sub-topics, the students each volunteered to complete a specific part of the map and for homework. In class the next day we went over the map and the students were given time to correct any mistakes that may have been made. Once the map was completed correctly, the students presented to the rest of the class what they did and gave more in depth information with their sub-topics. A review was held the following day and the students who worked on the mind map did very well in the review, demonstrating that cognitive tools like mind mapping can work to help the student be immersed in the subject matter.

If you would like to view the mind map you can go on to at the following address:
The mind map was saved as "Napoleon III".

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009e). Program five: Cognitive learning theories                                         [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from     


  1. Deborah,
    Immersion is one of the most informative yet least utilized methods of teaching. Immersion allows the episodic memory to enhance the learning experience, thus strengthening those all too important connections within our minds. Teleconferencing is a tremendous tool that a great many educators overlook. We tend to be the “experts” instead of relying on those in the field who have the first-hand experience. By utilizing resources such as virtual field trips, teleconferencing, and the like hopefully students will become excited by their learning and continue on long after they have left our classrooms.

  2. Sandra,
    Thank you for your response. From my own experience I can honestly say that including as many different learning experiences in one unit has increased my student's success in the course. I will continue to use as many different experiences as possible during my lessons.

  3. Deb-

    I absolutely love your ideas on how to use concept mapping with historical topics. I teach Economics now but had taught World and American History for several years and I would have loved to have these kinds of technologies then. The Emperor Napoleon III concept map would be an excellent cognitive tool to use, especially since explaining nationalism in Eurpoe can be a daunting undertaking. If students can chunk the material and organize it in their own way (such as in your concept map), then they can make better connections and "piece the puzzle" together so to speak about some of the underlying causes to World War I. I agree that students will be more immersed in the content through an activity like this. Thanks for your post!

    Scott Embrock

  4. Debbie,
    I love the video conference you did with your class. I actually hadn't considered it, but video conferences can also be used as a virtual field trip! With just a little modification on the idea you discussed, I could set up a phone Skype with a friend I know who happens to be a musician for Phantom of the Opera in Las Vegas and he could physically walk through the building and show my students the setup of the stage and backstage while discussing his career. Thanks for the idea!